Tuesday, August 10, 2021
By Wendy Jo Moyer
If it weren’t for a friend who led her to Valencia College, Anna Castillo may not be the same person she is today. When she was in high school, that friend encouraged her to join him at a Valencia College presentation. And now, seven years later, she owes her friend a big thank you for launching her education and career.
“I was able to meet many passionate students and faculty,” she said. And the programs really kept me involved and exposed me to people who helped me grow professionally.”
Her Valencia experience has led her to obtain numerous degrees including an Associate in Arts from Valencia, a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Central Florida (UCF) and a Master of Science in Management with a focus on human resources that she just completed at UCF in July 2021. Additionally, she’s a SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) certified professional.
Also in those seven years, Anna has grown as a Valencia College employee. She started her career as a work study student in financial aid. At that time, as dedicated as she was, Anna rode the bus for three hours each way to get to campus for class and work.
After her work study role, she moved into positions as a student enrollment advisor, human resources (HR) recruitment intern, HR policy and employee relations assistant, and HR compliance specialist, before moving into her current role as Organizational Development and Human Resources (ODHR) navigator. As a navigator, Anna provides day-to-day operational HR support to employees collegewide with hiring, onboarding, benefits and payroll.
“I’m so proud of how far I’ve gone at Valencia,” Anna explained. “Starting off as a work study student, I’ve gotten so many opportunities to grow within the College, grow professionally and further my education. It’s been a major accomplishment.”
“Anna is a true team player,” shared her supervisor, Liz Suarez, senior director, ODHR. “She’s always actively seeking opportunities to be challenged and to support others, not only her team in the ODHR Regional Solution Centers but the division’s team as well. Her quest for learning HR has taken her from an internship to various roles and partnerships within the division, notwithstanding, while attending school and volunteering her personal time too. Anna is an example of commitment to learning, immediate application of knowledge, service to others and certainly PASSION to ACT on such values for our people through our ODHR work.”
It’s not surprising that Anna believes that Valencia College signifies opportunity to the community.
“Whenever I get the opportunity, I share my story of how I was able to grow with the College,” she said. “Coming from a small island in the Virgin Islands, I am appreciative of the educational and career opportunities I have encountered within an organization. Valencia set a path for me to move forward.”
Anna loves Valencia’s empowering culture and that her supervisors have been supportive of her goals.
“They always inquire, what’s your next step, what do you want to do and how can I help you get there?” she said. “That positive and inviting environment is something I admire — I just I love it, and I always talk about it everywhere I go.”
In fact, during her courses for her master’s degree, Anna mentioned that her peers envied her because she loved her employer.
“They say, ‘you’re always happy to talk about Valencia.'” Well, yes, because it’s awesome and an amazing place to work,” she said.
Anna also appreciates Valencia’s diversity, especially having numerous female leaders to look up to as she grows in her career.
“In my culture, it’s not usual to see women in leadership roles,” she said. “To see that in a company reinforces and lets you know that we welcome diversity, and anything is really possible.”
Anna is also a go-getter out of work. She is a mobile loan signing agent for mortgages, is vice president of the Prospanica Orlando Chapter Board of Directors and a Horizon Scholars mentor. In her spare time, she enjoys visiting her nine nieces and nephews as the cool aunt.
Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for at least one year? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.